CES: Data and intuition collide in the fight between native apps and the Web

By Nathaniel Mott , written on January 11, 2013

From The News Desk

What does the future of computing look like? That question is asked and answered a thousand different ways in every exhibition hall and conference room at CES, with an astounding number of companies, pundits, journalists, and analysts struggling to have their voice heard above the rest. Sometimes the future is easy to agree on -- 4K is widely regarded as the next big thing for televisions, for example -- but often it's messy, as with the ongoing debate between Web technologies and platform-native tech.

I know, I sound like a broken record. That's fine. But when Nielsen VP Scott Brady says that native technologies have dominated this year while, just a short walk away, Alcatel-Lucent's Ed Elkin and HTC America's Michael Woodward are arguing that HTML5 will soon rise to power, something needs to be reconciled.

Brady discussed the native versus Web conflict during his "All About Android" presentation, where he broke down some trends surrounding Android, its users, its manufacturers, and its future. Some people wonder if apps are just a "glorified bookmark" for Web pages, he said, in which case one might expect app usage to go down as Web technologies become more capable.

But, it turns out, that hasn't been the case. According to Brady, mobile Web usage actually fell from 2011 to 2012, with the mobile Web representing just one-fifth of Android users' time spent with their smartphones. "Apps continue to win against the mobile Web," he said.

Meanwhile, during a panel about the future of smartphones, Alcatel-Lucent's Elkin argued that HTML5 would rise to power in 2013, becoming a viable third contender in the mobile market. The technology, spurred by Mozilla's Firefox OS, would "radically change the notion of "what is the smartphone,'" he said.

HTC's Woodward was't quite so optimistic. His company is banking on a viable third contender in the mobile race. Because Samsung dominates Android market share and "Apple had a problem with us building iOS phones," the company is keeping an eye out for potential contenders. HTML5 might be it, Woodward said, but he admits that iOS and Android's dominance will continue in 2013 and 2014.

Elkin thinks that HTML5 will evolve to become a strong base, but even if it does, Brady's data shows that built-for-Android, or iOS, will continue to be compelling force. If HTML5's time is coming, it's going to take a while.